The 40th Anniversary of the Route du Rhum Solo Transatlantic Race

Author:
Publish date:
The perfect weather at the start quickly gave way to boat-breaking conditions

The perfect weather at the start quickly gave way to boat-breaking conditions

It was a memorable year for the quadrennial solo Route du Rhum race from Saint Malo, France, to Guadeloupe, with everything from storm conditions to plenty of disabled boats and nail-biting finishes at the end to mark the event’s 40th anniversary.

The 11th running of the 3,542-mile classic, which has been won over the years by a who’s who of the world’s solo-sailing elite, began with ideal conditions for the 123 solo sailors at the start. But it then quickly descended into controlled chaos as the notorious Bay of Biscay lashed the fleet with gale force winds and towering seas, prompting many skippers to take shelter along the nearby coast of Europe.

Ironically, among the earliest victims of the weather were those in the oversized Ultime multihull class, with Sébastien Josse, who had gotten off to a great start aboard Edmond de Rothschild, soon losing the bow of his starboard ama in 30 knots of wind and 15ft seas. After that, it was French Vendée Globe winner Armel Le Cléac’h, whose Banque Populaire IX capsized after its port ama snapped in similar conditions. Fortunately, both skippers were unhurt in their accidents.

U.S. Class40 sailor Mike Hennessy had an outstanding race

U.S. Class40 sailor Mike Hennessy had an outstanding race

Other victims of the rough conditions included Franco-German IMOCA sailor Isabelle Joschke and British skipper Sam Goodchild aboard the Class 40 Narcos Mexico, both of whom lost their rigs. “I had just picked up a few places,” Goodchild said afterward. “I went down below and started to tidy up, and then there was a big bang. I came up on deck, and the whole rig was in the water, and we were drifting over the top of it.”

One sailor who made it through the ordeal in one piece was 52-year-old American skipper Michael Hennessy aboard the Class40 Dragon.

“Last night was a classic,” he reported the morning after. “Winds built to sustained 35 knots and gusts to 40. Sea height was 12ft. Dragon took flying lessons, and while her launch is pretty good, her landing needs some work.”

IDEC Sport drifts toward the finish with MACIF in the background

IDEC Sport drifts toward the finish with MACIF in the background

After that, it was fairly smooth sailing across the open Atlantic, until things started to get exciting again toward the finish—especially for 62-year-old French sailing legends Francis Joyon aboard the Ultime IDEC Sport and 35-year-old François Gabart aboard the Ultime MACIF, who’d been dueling ever since escaping the storm. In the end, Joyon drifted across the line in a near calm a mere seven minutes, eight seconds ahead of Gabart, in the process setting a new course record of seven days, 14 hours and 21 minutes.

“It was only one-and-a-half minutes before the finish that I realized I could win,” Joyon said. “Before the last gybe François was faster than me with his Code Zero and practically all the way to the finish line I had a vision of him steaming in and passing me again because he was going 2 or 3 knots quicker.”

Thomson nurses Hugo Boss toward the finish after running aground

Thomson nurses Hugo Boss toward the finish after running aground

Alas, another sailor who experienced some drama of the very worst kind toward the end was British sailor Alex Thomson who’d held a commanding lead throughout only to run his IMOCA monohull Hugo Boss aground in the race’s final stages. Because he had to use his engine to get his boat off the rocks, Thomson was given a 24-hour time penalty, which in turn dropped him into third place, giving the class win to Paul Meilhat aboard SMA.

In all only 76 skippers made it to the finish, among them Hennessy (for whom this was the first solo transatlantic) who finished 12th among the 53 Class40s (18 of which abandoned the race) with Frenchman Yoann Richomme aboard Veedol-AIC taking first. For complete results, visit routedurhum.com/en

February 2019

Related

GMR19_F53_0539

Boat Review: Beneteau First Yacht 53

Luxury performance-cruising isn’t entirely new. You can go fast and still be comfortable. You can even race if you make the right tradeoffs—or so says Groupe Beneteau, which recently launched its First Yacht 53, in the process also reinventing the company’s “First” brand. ...read more

BirdonBoard

Cruising: Birds of a Feather

One of the neatest things about sailing offshore is the other lifeforms we encounter. We smile when we see flying fish skimming over the surface of the sea. We cheer when dolphins leap and dance in our bow waves. We are duly reverent when mighty whales sound and spout, and ...read more

pirate-marlin-logo

Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament

This Spring has felt a bit like a slow day of fishing but it’s almost time to time to Bait…and Switch. The Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournaments offer something for every member of your crew. Exceptional fishing, fun times with family, old friends and new. Our run is short, our ...read more

Tusk.00_00_16_21.Still001

Tusk by Spyderco

Spyderco's Tusk knife combines a blade and marlinspike to create a multitool perfect for marine use. Made with corrosion resistant materials like titanium and LC200N steel, a nitrogen alloyed steel, and Spyderco-exclusive locking mechanisms, this knife is one of the toughest ...read more

IY11.98_fTaccola©DJI_0200

Italia 11.98 Performance-cruiser

This past winter, SAIL principal editor, Adam Cort, check out the new Italia Yachts’ new 11.98 performance-cruiser at the boot Dusseldorf show in German, and says he can attest to the fact it’s a boat more than worthy of the attention of North American sailors. Available in ...read more

01-LEAD-2017_IDALEWIS_0219

Racing: Doublehanded

I was born in 1955, and although I was a tad young to actually follow the first Observer Single-Handed Transatlantic Race, I grew up in the age of the pioneers of solo offshore sailing—Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnson, Alec Rose, all Knighted for their singlehanded ...read more

newport-400c-updated

Spectra Watermakers

The world's quietest and most energy-efficient watermakers. Our product line ranges from hand operated desalinators that can make 6 gallons a day to our largest system that produces 20,000 gallons of fresh, potable water per day. Spectra Watermakers has the complete package: ...read more

CAPE-COD---Under-sails

Boat Review: Cape Cod

The concept of “daysailer” has grown ever broader over the years. These days the label can be pasted on a boat as small and simple as a Sunfish, as fancy as a 40-footer with a nice big cockpit and plenty of brightwork, or any number of concoctions in between. This Cape Cod ...read more